worker safety

Hazards of Lone Working: How to Manage Lone Working Risks

Unaddressed hazards of lone working can escalate rapidly. Learn how to manage lone working risks effectively and prioritize safety.



Lone workers are a key player in the continuous operation of our industries, yet their situation is filled with unique risks. These risks of lone working are often overlooked in the broader discussion of workplace safety but require special attention and a strategy centered on the individual worker's safety.

We're here to address the hazards of lone working, focusing not just on the dangers but also on the effective, life-saving strategies that can turn isolation into a point of safety and strength. Each year, half a billion nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses are reported, yet most of these events can be attributed to preventable causes. By implementing effective lone worker solutions, we can bridge the gap where technology meets personal safety, ensuring every lone worker is supported and never truly isolated.

Let’s explore the challenges and discover how businesses, peers, and lone workers themselves can create a safer, more connected working environment.

A deep dive into lone worker safety policy

A lone worker safety policy is a crucial part of an organization's framework, detailed with rules, roles, and procedures. However, the mere presence of this policy isn't enough to reduce the hazards of lone working. Its effectiveness comes from how it's applied—turning static guidelines into active tools for protecting against risks, whether health emergencies, accidents, mental health issues, or environmental dangers.

So, what's included in this policy? Think of detailed risk assessments specific to the nature of solo tasks, making sure the safety needs of lone workers are recognized and addressed. Consider training programs focused not just on generic tips but on practical, relevant skills and insights tailored to the realities of working alone. Also, picture a safety solution that bridges distances, linking lone workers with support networks through technology, ensuring constant monitoring, and fast emergency responses.

A key aspect of a successful lone worker safety policy is its adaptability. It needs to evolve with new technologies, changing work environments, and the feedback from the workers it's designed to protect. It's an active, adaptive plan, acknowledging that the hazards of lone working change as frequently as the situations of the workers.

Grasping the concept of lone working hazards

Lone working isn’t just about extreme isolation; it includes a variety of situations. Within this solitude, lone workers face a multifaceted set of hazards – from physical dangers and health emergencies to psychological issues and even threats of violence.

But recognizing these hazards is just the start. The next step is to see them as risks that can be managed, not insurmountable obstacles. This perspective is key in balancing awareness of lone worker hazards whilst implementing practical, people-focused solutions.

The types of hazards lone workers can face 

The work environment of a lone worker might look simple at first glance, but it's filled with hidden dangers that need careful monitoring and preemptive action. These risks are often not obvious, growing quietly until they become serious problems. We've broken down these risks into categories:

Social risks - Explore more

  • Violence and aggression: Lone workers, especially in fields like healthcare, social services, or real estate, may face aggression from clients, the public, or unauthorized individuals.
  • Harassment and bullying: The lack of witnesses leaves lone workers particularly susceptible to harassment and bullying, potentially causing serious emotional and psychological distress.

Environmental risks - Explore more

  • Extreme weather: Fieldworkers face environmental challenges like extreme cold or heat, leading to health risks such as hypothermia or heatstroke.
  • Rough terrain: Workers in industries like construction or oil and gas often deal with uneven or treacherous terrain, which can increase the risk of falls or accidents.
  • Hazardous materials: Exposure to harmful chemicals or gases is a significant risk, particularly for those in specific industrial roles.

Workplace risks - Explore more

  • Accidents and injuries: The range of possible injuries for lone workers spans from slips and falls to serious accidents involving machinery.
  • Health emergencies: Medical emergencies like heart attacks or allergic reactions are especially hazardous for lone workers due to potential delays in receiving help.
  • Mental health: The solitary nature of the work can amplify feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, which might go unnoticed until they become severe.

The hazards of lone working are interconnected, often overlapping, calling for an inclusive approach to safety that covers the worker's surroundings, health, and overall well-being. With the right awareness, technological support, and a committed safety culture, these challenges, although intimidating, can be effectively managed.

Why lone workers are vulnerable 

Discussing the dangers of lone working means looking closely at what makes their situation more risky. This includes not having immediate help, the unpredictability of people and situations, and the ever-changing nature of their work settings. But what are the specific vulnerabilities of lone workers?

  • No immediate help: A significant risk for lone workers is the lack of quick help in emergencies, whether it's a health issue, an injury, or a confrontation. The critical first hour for effective intervention often passes as they wait for support.
  • No witnesses: Working alone means there are no witnesses to incidents, accidents, or near-misses. This lack of witnesses can lead to difficulties in reporting and understanding incidents accurately and can leave workers feeling unsupported and doubtful about their experiences, adding to their stress and anxiety.
  • Changing work environments: Lone workers often find themselves in varied and unpredictable settings, from remote areas to working outside typical office hours, or visiting private homes.

  • Limited emergency resources: Even if lone workers have a phone, there are times when they might not be able to use it due to an injury, a threatening situation, or poor network coverage.

  • Mental health impact: The feeling of isolation, particularly in tense situations, can heavily affect mental health. The ongoing knowledge of being alone in risky situations can cause long-term stress, affecting their well-being and work performance.

Recognizing these challenges is not about focusing on the negative but about strengthening the support for lone workers. By integrating technology such as real-time monitoring and quick response systems we can change lone working from a role filled with potential dangers to one that is safe, connected, and empowering.

Recognizing the hazards 

Lone working is a field where calm situations can quickly turn dangerous. Understanding the hazards of lone working goes beyond just knowing they exist; it involves analyzing their causes, impacts, and potential development in real-world situations. Let’s examine two common but often unaddressed hazards:

Physical injury from falls

The threat of physical injury, especially from falls, is a repeated concern. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, slip, trip, and fall injuries sustained in the workplace were the second leading cause of fatalities among workers — second only to transportation incident.

Consider a utility worker fixing a power line high above the ground. The height and task are familiar, but a simple error like a misstep or a faulty harness can turn a standard job into a hazardous fall. The danger here lies not only in the fall but also in the lack of immediate assistance, with crucial minutes turning into hours, worsening the injury.

Health crises due to isolation 

Imagine a security guard working alone at night in an empty building. Everything seems routine until a sudden heart attack occurs. The risk is double here: the heart attack itself and the isolation, potentially turning a treatable condition into a life-threatening event because of the delayed response.

Addressing these hazards requires more than just being aware; it involves combining foresight, preparedness, and technology. By exploring these and other risks, our defenses grow, not just in knowledge, but also in strategies and tools to prevent workplace dangers.

The consequences of neglecting lone worker hazards

Ignoring the safety of these workers doesn't just harm them individually; it has broader impacts on companies, industries, and communities, sometimes with lasting effects. This brief look focuses on the consequences of such neglect, highlighting why ensuring the safety of lone workers is essential, not optional.

  • Organizational consequences: Lack of or failure in safety measures can lead to repercussions extending far beyond the individual incident. These include operational disruptions, loss of skilled employees, financial costs, and damage to the company's reputation, affecting customer trust and employee morale.
  • Psychosocial effects: The aftermath of lone worker accidents or health emergencies deeply affects both their colleagues and families.
  • Economic costs: Neglected risks also come with financial consequences. Besides direct expenses like healthcare and legal costs, there are indirect losses such as downtime, lower productivity, investigation efforts, and possibly higher insurance premiums.
  • Stifled prevention innovation: Failing to acknowledge the risks faced by lone workers hinders the adoption of preventative solutions. This lack of recognition means industries might not invest in essential safety technologies and procedures, slowing progress in crucial areas like real-time monitoring and emergency response.

Focusing on the safety of lone workers is more than meeting regulations; it's about upholding a company's ethical standards. It involves creating a culture that treats safety as essential, sees technology as a protector, and views preventative actions as reflective of a company's values.

Find out more by reading our post: Understanding the cost vs ROI of lone worker solutions: A comprehensive guide for HSE/OHS managers.

Real-world case studies

These real-world case studies from our clients go beyond simple testimonials; they're instructive examples highlighting the dangers of working alone and how proactive steps can make a difference. They offer a glimpse into how crises can be transformed into success stories with the help of people-focused technology and dedication to lone worker safety.

Case study: Crescent Point Energy
Crescent Point Energy, a significant oil producer in Canada and the US, faced challenges in monitoring the safety of their 650 lone workers, including those in remote locations. 

By implementing our SafetyAware system, they significantly improved their safety management, enabling quick, informed responses to incidents and compliance with safety legislation. Notably, the system proved life-saving in several emergencies, including rescuing employees trapped in a wildfire and a landslide. 

The adoption of SafetyAware by Crescent Point not only enhanced their safety protocols but also underscored their commitment to employee welfare, saving four lives and reinforcing a culture of safety across the organization.

Read the full Crescent Point Energy case study

Case study: The Alex
The Alex, a comprehensive healthcare provider in Calgary, faced the critical task of maintaining a robust electronic medical record (EMR) system and ensuring the safety of field staff, especially during the heightened challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To address these needs, The Alex adopted our tools, including SafetyAware, for lone worker safety and COVID-19 contact tracing. This technological integration not only bolstered field safety and emergency response but also significantly improved employee retention and operational efficiency, showcasing The Alex's adaptability and commitment to continuous, safe community care during a period of unprecedented challenges.

Read the full The Alex case study

These stories demonstrate that the risks associated with lone working can be effectively managed and overcome. They serve as reminders that facing these challenges requires a blend of human effort and technological aid, from comprehensive lone worker safety solutions like SafetyAware.

Summary: How to manage lone working risks

Here at Aware360, our examination of lone working underlines a crucial insight: while its challenges are significant, they can be effectively managed. Experiences across different industries demonstrate that combining technology, awareness, and determination is key to mitigating risks and ensuring safe working environments.

Reflecting on lone working reveals that it's about more than facing dangers; it's an opportunity to forge unparalleled safety through cooperative efforts and innovation. Achieving this safer path requires the right blend of technology, training, equipment, and a steadfast commitment to safety culture.

Are you concerned about the risks your lone workers face every day? Don’t just rely on chance. Click here to take a step towards securing your team's safety today!

Similar posts

People-centric solutions you can trust

Keep your workers safe through real-time, two-way communication, monitoring and response, wherever their workday takes them.

Drive operational efficiency and access safety insights to make better decisions, at the right time.